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Nick Nurse Explains De’Anthony Melton’s Absence in Game 3 vs. Knicks

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For the first time in a while, the Philadelphia 76ers activated De’Anthony Melton ahead of their Game 3 matchup against the New York Knicks on Thursday.

When Melton last suited up for the Sixers, he appeared on the court for a five-minute shift. The veteran guard was coming off of a 15-minute showing in his first game back in weeks.

This time around, Melton didn’t get a chance to compete, despite being suited up after spending some time off the court due to his lingering back issue.

While keeping Melton glued to the bench was not in the Sixers’ plans ahead of Game 3, the flow of the matchup led Nick Nurse to make that decision.

It was hard for the Sixers to cut into Cam Payne’s minutes off the bench. Although Payne hadn’t registered any minutes throughout the Sixers’ first two matchups, he took his opportunity and ran with it in Game 3.

“He was awesome,” Nurse said of Payne. “He certainly did a good job. Obviously, we were searching just a little bit there for some kind of spark off the bench.”

There was a pecking order for the spark the Sixers were in search of, and Melton was next in line.

“Certainly had that in our thoughts to maybe go with Cam first, then still had Melt in the back of our minds there too,” Nurse added. “Cam got going so he kind of soaked up those minutes.”

Payne collected 15 minutes of playing time on Thursday night. He was red-hot from three, making three of his four attempts from deep. Overall, he knocked down four of his seven shots to lead the Sixers’ bench with 11 points. He also dished out three assists, and brought contagious positive energy to a game that the Sixers simply couldn’t let slip away.

While Payne’s positive impact on the game prevented Melton from making his return officially, the Sixers made the right choice to ride it out with the in-season trade acquisition. Meanwhile, Melton should be ready for the Sixers’ Game 4 matchup, which is set to take place at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon.

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